Manila Mulls Harsh Penalties to Curb Unlawful Sale of Mercury-Containing Cosmetics

Manila. A city councilor of Manila today filed an ordinance imposing sanctions and fines against individuals and establishments selling cosmetics laced with mercury, an extremely toxic chemical.

Coinciding with the celebration of International Women’s Day, District II Councilor Numero “Uno” Lim filed a public health and safety measure entitled “An Ordinance to Stop the Illegal Sale of Injurious Mercury-Containing Cosmetics in the City of Manila.”

The Ordinance shall apply to personal care products such as creams, lotions and soaps that are designed to lighten or whiten the color of the skin.

The Ordinance, consistent with R.A. 9711 or the Food and Drug Administration Act of 2009, shall penalize individual violators with imprisonment from one to 10 years or a fine from P50,000 to P500,000, or both.

For violators who are manufacturers, importers or distributors, the imprisonment of 5 to 10 years and the fine of P500,000 to P5,000,000 shall apply.

“The severe penalties awaiting violators should dampen if not flush out the illegal trade of dangerous cosmetics that pose hazards to consumer health, especially to women,” said Lim in a statement.

“This is an important step in the right direction that we know willprotect women and the general public against mercury exposure in products as well as in wastes,” commented Aileen Lucero, Safe Cosmetics Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

Lim earlier filed a resolution unanimously adopted by the City Council on February 21, 2012 urging the City Department of Health “to vigorously assist the Food and Drug Administration in the strict enforcement of the ban on mercury-tainted cosmetics.”

The ordinance seeks “to ensure strict compliance by business and commercial establishments, as well as street, ‘tiangge’ and online vendors, to the national regulation banning the sale of cosmetics containing mercury above the limit set by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).”

The FDA, in line with the ASEAN Cosmetics Directive, has set 1 part per million (ppm) as “allowable limit” for mercury in cosmetics.

Specifically, the Ordinance aims to:

a. To halt the illegal manufacture, importation, marketing and promotion,distribution and sale of untested, unlabeled and/or unregistered cosmetics intentionally added with mercury and those cosmetic products that do not conform with the ASEAN Cosmetics Directive.

b. To promote citizen awareness about the health and environmental hazards of consuming mercury-containing cosmetics.

c. To ensure the environmentally-safe management of banned, recalled and/or confiscated mercury-containing cosmetics.

Once enacted, the Ordinance shall prohibit:

a. The manufacture, importation, marketing and promotion, distribution and sale of cosmetics with mercury in excess of 1 ppm as set by the FDA.

b. The sale, wholesale or retail, of cosmetics that have not been authorized by the FDA as required by R.A. 9711.

c. The sale, wholesale or retail, of cosmetics that have not complied with the labeling requirements implemented by the FDA.

d. The open dumping, open burning and/or disposal of banned, recalled and/or confiscated mercury-containing cosmetics in regular municipal solid waste.

Violation of the ordinance shall be a basis for the suspension of the business license or permit for a period of not more than fifteen (15) days for the first violation; thirty (30) days for the second violation, and the revocation thereof for the third and subsequent violations.

All banned, recalled and/or confiscated stocks of cosmetics containing mercury shall be returned to the exporting country/ies at the expense of the concerned importers, distributors, wholesalers, retailers or vendors for environmentally-sound disposal, according to the Ordinance.

If ownership of the banned, recalled and/or confiscated cosmetics cannot be determined, the same shall be temporarily kept at a secured place for environmentally-sound disposal in coordination with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the FDA and other relevant agencies, the Ordinance stated.